Hardiness Zones & Frost Dates

Hardiness Zones & Frost Dates

The Plant Hardiness Zones (PHZ) map is often used/referred by gardeners to find out what can grow in their areas. However, you need to be careful while using this tool..

The PHZ map was first developed in the United States. Attempts date back as far as 1927, but the modern PHZ map promoted by USDA was first published in 1960. In the United States, the PHZ map is based on the annual average minimum temperature. It goes from zone 0 to 13 in 10°F (5.6°C) increments. In 1990, subdivisions “a” and “b” were introduced in each zone resulting in an increment of 5°F (2.8°C). The latest version of the PHZ map was released by USDA in 2012 with updated data from 1976 to 2005. Many areas are now considered to be half zone warmer compared to the 1990 PHZ map.

The PHZ map can be a useful indicator, but since only one parameter is being monitored, it doesn’t tell the whole story gardeners would like to hear. The Canadian PHZ map, originally developed in 1967, is a prime example of a more refined approach. Indeed, 7 factors are included in an index describing the zones ranging from 0 to 9 with a/b subdivisions. These factors include the minimum temperature of the coldest months of the year, the maximum temperature of the hottest months of the year, the amount of precipitation 

during the growing season, the frost-free period, snow cover, maximum wind gusts and a winter factor. While the Canadian PHZ Index is quite extensive, even its maintainers point out that zones are only a general guide.

Now that you know more about PHZ maps, note that the benefit of these maps is mainly for perennials. Indeed, for annual plants, constituting most of the plants in the vegetable garden, the winter conditions described by the PHZ map will never be met. Therefore, as a gardener you need to follow other indicators.

hardiness zones are only a general guide

Besides extremely specific parameters related to your site, such as soil quality and sun exposure, what really matters is the last frost date in the spring and the first frost date in the fall. With these settings you can determine when to start your seedlings and when to transplant those that have been started indoors. With frost dates, you can also make sure that the growing season in your area is long enough to get your frost-sensitive plants to maturity!

To get your hardiness zone and associated frost dates for your location for free and easily, simply sign up for the HireNature ecosystem and go to your Dashboard.

Best Type Of Garden And Its Dimensions

Best Type Of Garden And Its Dimensions

A legitimate question that is often asked by new gardeners is “What type of garden should I start? Rows or beds? And if I choose growing beds; should it be in-ground or raised beds?”

First, let’s examine rows vs beds considerations

Rows, also generally referred to as the “traditional” gardening approach, consists of planting crops in straight lines and separate each of these lines with a pathway. This is the common approach used on seed packets to provide spacing parameters related to a given plant. The term “traditional” suggests that this is the way gardening was practiced by our ancestors and thus, that it should be the reference. But in fact, that’s not the case.

Going back to Babylon, the Greek golden age, the ancient Rome, the Orient or even the Aztecs, growing beds was the way of doing gardening [1]. Growing beds were also used and advanced by the French intensive gardening method that peaked around Paris in the 1800s. Growing beds simply means grouping plants together in a specific area and separating the beds with pathways in order to access every parts of the bed without having to step into it.

That being said, which one should be favored?

If you rely or plan to use heavy mechanical equipment such as tractors, perhaps in-rows gardening is more adapted to your purpose. As a matter of fact, in-rows gardening emerged from the industrial revolution to accommodate mechanization. If you go down that path, you should at least have a look at the overall efficiency of your system.

If you’re not tied to specific farming equipment, growing beds are by far the best options you can choose. Considering the growing area alone, you can double the efficiency of your garden by using growing beds instead of rows, as there is far less space wasted for pathways. Regarding the other positive impacts, growing beds minimize uncovered soils and compaction, thus helping to promote healthy soils. Also, growing beds tend to create a local ecosystem where leaf canopy acts as living mulch and plants can interact together to leverage their full potential. Thereby, growing beds lead to less weeds, retain more moisture in soil, and thus result in less maintenance for gardeners!

Considering the growing area alone, you can double the efficiency of your garden by using growing beds instead of rows, as there is far less space wasted for pathways.

Now, if you are convinced that growing beds is the best way to adopt,

what about in-ground vs raised beds decision?

There are pros and cons of both approaches.

Raised beds can be a perfect solution if you have issues with your soil (rock, heavy clay, …) and they can be used in slope as terraced beds. Raised beds might be useful to circumscribe invasive plants in your garden, like mint, as each raised bed can be managed as a big container. Raised beds can also help to keep dogs or other animals from running straight in your crops and they may prevent soil compaction by being a physical barrier limiting people from stepping in. Besides, raised beds can be easier to maintain and harvest as plants and fruits are further elevated from the ground. They are also more accessible for peoples having disabilities. Moreover, raised beds can help to extend the gardening season as the soil warms up more quickly and water drainage might be better. Finally, some people opt for raised beds for aesthetic reasons.

On the other hand, raised beds can be cost prohibitive. Indeed, you’ll need materials to build them, usually wood plank, but also soil to fill them. Raised beds can limit the development of some plants that have deep roots system. This inconvenience depends, however, on the basis upon which raised beds are built. Finally, some crops are less appropriate for raised beds, like watermelon, which can overtake a bed unit.

Obviously, some of the advantages mentioned above regarding raised beds are inconveniences of in-ground beds and vice-versa. However, in-ground beds have some specific and very important advantages over raised beds that are worth mentioning. Indeed, in-ground beds are less costly, and they could be better suited for mechanical equipment. They allow to do wider experiments with garden location, shapes and dimensions. They also require less water than raised beds as they generally dry out much slower. If you opt for irrigation systems, in-ground bed might lead to an easier implementation. By using in-ground beds you contribute to regeneration of existing soils and reap all the benefits of having healthy soils. This is probably by far the biggest advantage of in-ground beds, especially if you want to use gardening as a positive environmental solution.

Growing beds dimensions

Generally, growing beds width is between 30″ (2.5′) and 60″ (5′) or 75 cm to 150 cm.

Note that 30″ or 75 cm is often preferred because:

  • it is very accessible from each side
  • some equipments are standardized for this width
  • it allows you to easily step over the beds
  • they are ideal width for kids

If your beds are not very long, it could be more valuable to go up to a width of 60″ or 150 cm in order to maximize your gardening space.

For paths, a minimum width of 12″ or 30 cm is required to walk, but for more comfort and to allow the wheelbarrow to pass, paths between 18″ to 24″ or 45 cm to 60 cm are ideal.

Regarding the length of growing beds, this is mainly based on your available space. However, it could be wise to try to get uniform beds dimensions. That may help maintenance and maximize the usefulness of your gardening equipment. Uniform beds can also ease garden planning. However, this limitation is not applicable when using HireNature’s Garden Planning tool technology, as it allows automation and optimization of garden layout for gardens with beds of varying sizes.

A good growing bed is often between 2” to 12” or 5 cm to 30 cm above the original ground surface. For raised beds, the height is typically between 6” to 36” or 15 cm to 90 cm. It depends on the soils below (structure, compaction, …) and the type of vegetables you want to grow. As a rule of thumb, you should try to get at least 24’’ or 60 cm of loosened soil from the top of your beds. Most vegetables can grow down their roots as deep as 6’ or 180 cm to get nutrients and water. By itself, this shows the benefit of avoiding compaction.

Bottom line, the selection of garden type and its dimensions is a personal choice. However, we hope that this post brings to light some facts that will help you make an informed decision. No matter what you choose, the Garden Planning Tool developed by HireNature is there to help you to make your garden planning phase easier and to allow you to try new garden configurations.

What kind of garden you’ll do this year? We’d love to hear from you about that and the challenges you face or the next steps you’re thinking of taking in your gardening journey. Besides, send us pictures of your garden layout!


Have a wonderful gardening season!

HireNature’s team


[1] D. Wallace (Ed.). Getting the Most from Your Garden Using Advanced Intensive Gardening Techniques. 1980. Rodale Press.

The Garden Planning Tool Is Now Released! Enjoy Our Prototype To Create Abundance In Your Garden!

The Garden Planning Tool Is Now Released! Enjoy Our Prototype To Create Abundance In Your Garden!

HireNature’s mission is to connect Nature’s Intelligence with Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to promote productive, innovative and regenerative organic gardening. We are thus very excited today, on the Earth Day anniversary, to announce that the prototype version of our first module, the Garden Planning Tool, is now available! The purpose of this module, powered by an AI engine, is to let gardeners obtain easily and rapidly  the optimal layout for the plants they want to grow in their gardens. Helped by the tool, you can thus automate and optimize the garden layout that you have always dreamt of!

HireNature fully subscribes to the lean startup approach where users are invited to become part of the product development by trying it as soon as possible and giving their feedback to steer the product evolution path. Since the beginning of the development, HireNature included in the loop potential users with wide range of experiences and coming from around the globe. This was done by organizing a group of beta testers, better known as the “GardenerTesters” in HireNature’s context.

We have received very good feedback from the GardenerTesters and are happy to release the first version, letting more gardeners benefit from its features and AI that is under the hood. The tool will continues to evolve towards better usability and support for more garden configurations. The roadmap also includes other modules and features, like a virtual assistant for gardening maintenance & pest/disease control, an harvest calendar and many more.

Note that as the tool is still in a prototype stage, it is possible that some features don’t respond as expected or that some scenarios are out of the scope for now. In fact, here you can find the list of all known limitations. In any case, if you see anything odd, don’t hesitate, contact us and we’ll be delighted to help you.

With all that said, it would be reckless to leave this post without asking for your help. As you now have a glimpse of our development process, you probably have a good idea about what we’ll ask for. You got it! Please share with us your feedback, how your experience with the Garden Planning Tool goes, any missing features you would like us to prioritize, etc… Also, we’ll be pleased and honored to see pictures of your garden at various time in the season.

Welcome to HireNature!

Hope you’ll enjoy our prototype!

Be Part Of The Solution

Be Part Of The Solution

Are you looking to be part of the solution to major issues of our time – climate change and destruction of our ecosystem? Have a look, here’s a simple proposal. This is probably one of the most empowering, scalable, economical and timely solutions that we can set forward. By gardening and following regenerative agriculture best practices, you sequester carbon in soil while regenerating it! This is really a win-win-win situation as this has a positive impact against climate change and lets you contribute to bringing back healthy soil to life while improving your well-being.

Therefore, gardening the proper way can be part of the solution! Isn’t it fantastic! You’re already a gardener? Congratulations and thank you! Keep reading, as we want to help you reach the next level. You’re not a gardener but that solution appeals to you and you’d like to gain the benefits of gardening activity? Stay with us!

Do you know the main reasons why people don’t do or limit their gardening? According to the literature, the top 3 reasons are: lack of time, lack of space and lack of knowledge. Not to forget the motivation that, sometime diminishes as the season advances and results don’t show up as expected.

Like most gardeners you probably faced these challenges somehow and/or perhaps, they are waiting just around the corner threatening your next gardening season. Hence, here are few tips to avoid those limitations. First, you need to set yourself in an experimenter’s mindset. In short, that means being curious, not fearing exploration and detaching yourself from particular outcome. Isn’t it the mindset we’re looking for in our daily lives?! Second, appropriate tools and guidance may be invaluable to minimize your garden planning and maintenance time while maximizing your available space and expected yields. Moreover, although gardening literature is extensive, relevant knowledge customized to your location and circumstances is necessary but can be hard to find at times.

This is how HireNature enables you to become part of the solution; by providing efficient tools to support you throughout your gardening adventure. Our first tool is the Garden Planning Tool designed to automate and optimize your garden layout. While being able to design your garden in just few minutes, you’ll leverage artificial intelligence to get the most of your plants in your garden. Have a look of the details here and try it for free.

Ultimately, HireNature wants to create a community around the regenerative gardening movement. We want to leverage gardening not only as a solution for climate change and soil regeneration, but also as a significant step towards increasing resilience of our food system, reducing food waste, promoting healthy lifestyle and participating in the emerging circular economy. In other words, we want to create a kind of humanity++ ecosystem aligned with HireNature’s mission.

Oh! In this excitement I almost forgot to explain the third win in the “win-win-win” relationship specified at the beginning. In fact, this is the benefit that you can expect to experience quickly, and it is part of the reasons why gardening is so much fun. Indeed, by gardening you’ll be rewarded with fresh and quality foods while enjoying an almost free relaxing stress relief therapy!

As a final note, HireNature’s initiative is intended to act and contribute towards, at least, 12 of the 17 sustainable development objectives (71%) adopted by the United Nation (UN). The following picture depicts those objectives.

Following regenerative agriculture practices is an important step in resolving the environmental and societal challenges of our time. HireNature is there to help by providing a platform and tools. Together, we can make the difference!

Enjoy your gardening season!

Why HireNature

Why HireNature

Each period in the history of humankind is marked by specific challenges. Since about 100 000 years ago and for a long time, trying to stay alive was the main purpose. Speeding up to modern days, around 1000 year ago, societal organization and law & order was the main focus. Afterwards, the lack of hygiene became a major threat. Then, Human Rights came to forefront through revolutions. Later, communications around the world was recognized as the next frontier. Of course, this is far from being an exhaustive list. However, these challenges are highlighted to show how, by solving them, humanity was able to pursue its evolution.

Nowadays, set aside the coronavirus and the economic crash that will obviously reshape the system in which we live, climate change, pollution, conflicts and health are all challenges that deserve our attention. Most of the time, proposed solutions revolve around reducing our consumption and changing our habits with less harmful alternatives. In other words, we need to reduce our negative footprint. That’s great and… mandatory, as currently, according to the Global Footprint Network, in a year, we consume resources equivalent to 1.75 Earths. In other words, as soon as July 29th we exceed the planet’s regenerative capacity. This is thus called the Earth Overshoot Day.

Taking a step back, we believe that it will take more than “just” reducing our negative footprint if we want to continue to evolve as a society in this ecosystem. We want to have a positive impact and we believe that the powerful technologies at our disposal can and should be leveraged. We are also convinced that we must be open-minded as we’ll try to push the knowledge frontiers. These pillars are the foundation of HireNature. In fact, HireNature was founded to leverage humans’ full potential in term of intelligence, wisdom, love & compassion so that we can collaborate with Nature and have a positive footprint., enhancing thus the ecosystem in which we live.

Does the HireNature’s “why” resonate with you? Do you believe, as we do, that we should enhance our ecosystem instead of destroying it? Then, join us in that awesome adventure that is about to begin! Together, we can make the difference. Let Nature inspire all of us as a Model, a Measure, and a Mentor; hence HireNature! \o/

HireNature was founded to leverage humans’ full potential in term of intelligence, wisdom, love & compassion so that we can collaborate with Nature and have a positive footprint. Enhancing thus the ecosystem in which we live.

Guillaume Corriveau, eng., Ph.D.

CEO & Founder HireNature

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